Sexual assault (SA) is prevalent among students at 2- and 4-year colleges. The rate of SA among college students is three times greater than the rate in the general population, making prevention on college campuses a public health priority. There are no college SA prevention programs that document reductions in SA in a rigorous research design. Digital applications that use the theory and strategies of serious games integrate proven theories of behavior change (social cognitive theory, self-determination theory) to produce sustained, measurable behavioral outcomes, and are effective for promoting change in a range of health behaviors. Digital applications have high market potential in light of widespread use of mobile devices among young adults. Problematically, there are no commercially-available digital applications for SA prevention with efficacy in reducing SA. Accordingly, in this proposal, the Interactive Digital Intervention to Prevent Violence among Young Adults team will design, create and pilot the Make a Change digital application. Make a Change is a universal prevention program that aligns with best-practices in prevention, utilizes the theory and strategies of serious games for health, and addresses risk and protective factors for SA across the social ecology of individual, peer and community factors that foster SA. This novel digital application also leverages theories of behavior change within serious games for health, and integrates successful practices in videogame design to promote engagement, learning and skill-building. This team consists of experts in SA prevention, commercial videogame production, the development and testing of serious games for health, and business development and marketing. The primary aim of this Phase I SBIR is to create and test an alpha version of Make a Change for mobile devices, and to document the technical merit, commercial viability, and proof of concept of the product. Successful completion of this proposal will result in the creation of two assets: 1) an ?Intervention Manual? that (similar to a logic model) will align key game mechanics with theory and behavior change goals and, 2) the digital application for mobile devices. Focus groups and interviews with students, as well as interviews with campus stakeholders, will be used to inform development of the digital application and ensure its commercial viability. A non-randomized open trial with a 1-month follow up will assess preliminary effects on attitudes and behaviors, and will establish procedures for assessing change in proximal (attitude) and distal (behavioral) outcomes in preparation for large-scale evaluation in a Phase 2 SBIR proposal. This line of research and development has the potential to develop a commercially viable product with high public health impact that can be disseminated to 1700+ community colleges and 3,000+ 4-year colleges, and readily adapted to high schools, clinics and military settings.

Public Health Relevance

Despite high rates of sexual assault (SA) among college students, there are no college SA prevention programs that evidence reduction in rates of SA in a rigorous research design. This proposal brings together a multidisciplinary team of experts in business development, marketing, SA prevention science, game design, and serious games for health to develop a digital SA prevention application that is grounded in theories of behavior change and addresses a comprehensive set of risk and protective factors for SA. Due to the proliferation of digital devices, and the engaging nature of serious games for health, the development of this SA prevention application has high commercial viability, transportability and potential for widespread public health impact.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Small Business Innovation Research Grants (SBIR) - Phase I (R43)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1)
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Mann Koepke, Kathy M
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Happy People Games, LLC
United States
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